You've heard of the red pill. You've heard of the blue pill. If you're really deep into internet culture, then you've maybe also come across a black pill and a white pill.
What about the orange pill?
For many years now, Bitcoin has been strongly associated with the color orange. The exact flavor of orange may vary, but the Bitcoin logo is usually colored using orange with the hex code #F2A900. However, I've also seen the hex color code #F6911D used in some contexts, which is a bit more vibrant and deep orange, and I'm actually using #F7931A here on the my blog, which is just a better hue for link visibility on a white background.
Bitcoin wasn't always orange! The original bitcoin logo was a simple gold coin with the letters “b” and “c”, for bit-coin. The third iteration of the bitcoin logo was chosen to be orange for no reason other than the creator thought that it inspired consumer confidence. I guess he was right, because despite a few alternate suggestions over the coming years, his version of the logo stuck and Bitcoin was forever locked into the orange color symbolism.
What Does It Mean To Take The Orange Pill?
1. Bitcoin Is Better Than Fiat Currency
The first step towards being orange-pilled is to realize that bitcoin is a superior money to fiat currency. No matter what country you're in, fiat currencies such as the US dollar, the Swiss Franc, and the Japanese Yen are just printed at the will of the government. A small group of people sit behind closed doors and decide what's good for you, then execute that decision.
Because fiat currency is created through lending, the artificially low interest rates and economic stimulus that expands the money supply tends to overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy. This is called the Cantillon Effect. Wealthy people are able to borrow larger amounts of money, at cheaper rates, and invest in hard assets that appreciate over time. For example, a millionaire who owns real estate and stocks can get a larger and cheaper loan from the bank than someone working a minimum wage job.
When someone borrows money from the bank, the money supply expands, causing inflation. This is by design. Wealthy people recognize that holding too much cash causes their wealth to be inflated away over time, so they purchase hard assets to protect the purchasing power of their money. Those assets go up in value as the purchasing power of money decreases. Because poor people do not have access to the same type of loans, they tend to own fewer (or no) assets.
As asset prices go up, the wealthy gain access to more capital at cheaper rates, and the poor lose more purchasing power, increasing wealth inequality over time. This system rewards borrowers and punishes savers. Even at a conservative inflation rate of 2%, a cash-only savings account loses more than 50% of its purchasing power over the course of a person's lifetime.
Fiat currency makes the rich richer and the poor poorer.
You can't print more bitcoin, even if it's super-duper necessary. It would require ten million current bitcoin owners to all agree at the same time that they want to make themselves poorer. Bitcoin takes control of the money out of the hands of the government, and by operating on a neutral, permissionless monetary standard, our global financial system becomes fairer.
2. Bitcoin Is Better Than Gold
Gold was the standard store of value and medium of exchange for most countries around the world for thousands of years, and there's a good reason for it: you can't easily make more of it. It's also divisible, durable, portable, and easily recognized. For thousands of years and across hundreds of cultures, gold was the best money.
Gold was great money for a long time, but it was eventually abandoned for fiat. Why? For a globalized society, conducting transactions has some issues in the portability department. Gold is heavy, so it takes a lot of energy to transport it from place to place. Storing and securing gold is also very expensive. Gold is an inert metal, so it doesn't take much to “preserve” it, unlike copper and silver, but it does require bank vaults, security guards, and secure transport trucks and ships.
Many people have been advocating for a return to the gold standard, but the problems with gold haven't changed.
By contrast, bitcoin is very cheap to store, secure, and send around the world. You can secure a billion dollars worth of bitcoin with a single $200 hardware wallet. Bitcoin itself is unable to be compromised due to the distributed nature of the ledger (ten thousand copies distributed around the world), and with some simple techniques like mulsig, time locks, or a wallet passphrase, you can secure your bitcoin from theft or brute force attack.
In addition, you can send $0.10, or $1.00, or $1,000,000,000 around the world, any time of day or night, and have it be considered “final” in less than an hour. Even better, you can use your own personal bitcoin node to verify the validity of the transaction. A node will cost you about $200 to build yourself, or maybe $500 to buy pre-made. Compare that with the process of melting down gold bars to make sure they aren't filled with tungsten!
Lastly, bitcoin is digital, so it doesn't corrode, dent, melt, or get misplaced. Secured properly, your bitcoin will last forever.
Bitcoin is clearly superior to gold in the categories of portability, durability, divisibility, and recognizability (verifiability). Gold was great for a long time, but Bitcoin is here now, and Bitcoin is better.
3. Bitcoin Is Better Than Altcoins
2017 was the year of the altcoin, and at that time, many, including myself, believed in a multi-coin world where there would be a huge variety of digital assets, each with unique properties that would make them valuable. Then I did my homework.
Bitcoin is the only digital asset worth owning. Everything else is a security or a scam. There are a few different frameworks to understand this.
First off, the vast majority of altcoins have the clear and undeniable problem of not being decentralized or distributed. There is usually an inventor of the coin, a group of insiders with access to pre-mine holdings, and a board or foundation with control over the protocol. If a small group of people can control your coin, then it's not at all like Bitcoin.
This is not unstoppable money. This is an investment in a tech company. I would consider that a kill-shot for the vast majority of altcoins. Why does bitcoin have value? Because it's unstoppable money. Distributed and decentralized systems tend to become more centralized over time, and bitcoiners have worked hard to prevent centralized power within Bitcoin. Will altcoins become more decentralized over time? It's highly unlikely.
Even if you are a big fan of Coin XYZ, you have to recognize that they made a tradeoff somewhere. That tradeoff needs to be identified, and the question to ask is if it makes your coin 10x better than Bitcoin.
There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.Thomas Sowell
Making the blocks bigger and the block time faster doesn't just make a better bitcoin. Increased block size means that it requires more advanced hardware to run a node, which means average users can't afford to verify transactions, which means your blockchain is centralized to corporate entities and prone to state attack or technical issues.
If you make the block time faster, that means there are more blocks being produced in a shorter period of time, which then opens you up to more possibilities of orphaned blocks and blockchain reorganization, so you have to wait longer for final settlement.
There are plenty of altcoins out there which already exist and have made these tradeoffs. Why are they not popular? The answer may be that bitcoin is worse is better. What that basically means is bitcoin already works, despite not being “perfect”, and it's where people have collectively decided to store their value across the globe. It would take a 10x, or even 100x improvement on bitcoin for people to move hundreds of millions, or even billions of dollars of value into an alternative, experimental cryptocurrency.
Changing the block size from 1mb to 2mb or changing the block time from 10 minutes to 5 minutes is not a game changer.
Blockchain gaming? Credit card rewards? These are gimmicks. A cute dog meme may entice some retail traders temporarily, but it's not something that will replace bitcoin as digital money for the next 100 years.
There are many other issues with altcoins that I won't get into here, so to conclude I'll leave it as there is bitcoin, and there is the crypto industry. They are not the same.
4. Bitcoin Is Better Than All Other Types Of Wealth
As you start to learn more about how money works, you may look at your own portfolio and start to wonder what the tradeoffs are for not owning bitcoin instead. The most common types of investments today are stocks and real estate, but things like art, collectibles, and bonds would be included here as well.
Real estate has become a very popular way to store wealth in recent decades (remember, because fiat cash is trash), but there are some serious downsides. It's illiquid. It's not divisible. It's expensive to own. It's expensive to transact. It's not easily transferrable. It's location dependent. One major upside to real estate is that it can have cash flow, but empty apartments in Toronto or farmland without a farmer does not necessarily do that.
Stocks have their own issues. Individual equities are dependent on competent teams to effectively execute product sales, manage human resources, and maintain a brand in a competitive environment. Do you want your life savings dependent on how many iPhones Apple sells? Even if the team delivers on all fronts, unexpected market conditions could tank the value of your savings. Index funds make it so you are not reliant on individual teams, but they have management fees, are illiquid, and you certainly can't trade them cross platform.
If you want to store your wealth in something that's liquid, divisible, accepted globally, and goes up in value over time, Bitcoin is the answer.
Bitcoin Is Money, Language, And Truth
Once you figure out that bitcoin is better money than fiat, gold, and altcoins, and all other types of wealth, you really start to go down the rabbit hole and think about what money is and what role it has in society. There are many ways to describe money, and each method can create a different framework for understanding.
One interesting way to see money is as a universal language. Across cultures and across time, there are some undeniable things that people need, and therefore they ascribe value to them: Food for sustenance. Materials for shelter. Knowledge. Tools. Money is a medium of exchange that allows you to communicate your desire for valuable things.
Money allows you to create value in the present, store value for the future, and trade value based on personal economic calculations.
When you want to buy something, it says to the other person, “I value this item.” When the item is expensive relative to other items, it says, “This item is scarce.” No matter where you are in the world or what century you lived in, money allows you to communicate in a kind of unspoken language of value.
Taking this one step further, some make the case that Bitcoin is truth.
Bitcoin is truth in the sense that it is the first pure money the world has ever seen. All other moneys in the past have been corruptible. Stones and glass beads were able to be manufactured. Gold was able to be debased with lesser metals or confiscated. Fiat paper can be created out of thin air and loaned to the wealthy. With Bitcoin, none of those things are possible.
Because bitcoin cannot be printed, debased, or confiscated it cannot be corrupted. The only way to acquire bitcoin is to provide value to some other person, and voluntarily trade a good or service for it. Bitcoin represents a truth in societal values.
In a more literal sense, Bitcoin is truthful in that the network cannot be stopped, and the ledger cannot be changed.
There are more than 10,000 bitcoin nodes across the world verifying transactions and storing the full blockchain history, all the way back to the genesis block in 2009. If you destroy one node, there are still 9,999 nodes tracking the ledger. If you cut off the internet for an entire country, there are still thousands of nodes distributed across the globe, and more will likely pop up as a result of this attack.
Furthermore, the ledger cannot be changed because it would require an immense amount of energy to do so. A potential attacker would need to acquire billions of dollars worth of specialized equipment as well as a massive and continual source of base-load energy to attempt to attack the network and reorganize recent blocks in the bitcoin blockchain. To perform a deep reorg, it would have to sustain that attack for an extended period of time.
Where would all that capital come from? Certainly not from the bitcoin they mined, because they would be undermining the value of bitcoin, and the price would be dropping like a rock.
Thus, it's unfeasible that previously confirmed transactions on Bitcoin could be altered. The truth of who owns what is locked in digital amber, a permanently orange-tinted past.
Seeing The World Through Orange-Tinted Glasses
Being orange-pilled means that you start to see the world through orange-tinted glasses. In other words, Bitcoin starts to tint everything in your life. It doesn't have to be that you talk about bitcoin all the time (although that tends to happen), but you start to see bitcoin principles in other parts of your life.
One common example of this that I can see in my own life is the idea of low time preference, and it's begun to influence a lot of my personal decisions since I started to read about the origins of money and the impact of good money on a society over long periods of time. When I save money, I'm thinking in decades, not years. I think more about the lifetimes of my kids and (future) grandkids, and how my decisions now may impact them. I think about the tradeoffs of present vs future consumption of goods.
Many people who get orange-pilled also start to question narratives in other areas of their lives as well. It's a shock to the mind when you figure out how our money has been corrupted in the past 100 years. What are my other incorrect assumptions? About what else have I been lied to? Which trusted organizations have corrupt incentives?
For example, many bitcoiners change their diet from fiat food, namely foods which have become commonplace because they are cheap due to government subsidies. Examples could be processed carbohydrates and seed oils. Other bitcoiners may quit their fiat job in exchange for something more meaningful and impactful. A great book on this is The Fiat Standard, which discusses how corrupted money has corrupted many aspects of our daily lives.
Being orange-pilled doesn't necessarily mean you're obsessed with bitcoin, it just means that you get the deeper meaning behind Bitcoin. Your relationship with money has changed, and it has begun to change your daily actions and personal relationships (for the better)!
Change the money, change the worldMarty Bent
Orange, in the bitcoin community, is often associated with the brightness and hope that bitcoin embodies. A very typical symbol to meme on is Bitcoin as the rising sun. In this way, Bitcoin is fitting pair with the hope and potential of a new day. Bitcoin is the foundation for a brighter future, built on a better money.
Orange typically is associated with positive feelings, including creativity and warmth, youth, and optimism. Orange encourages and uplifts. Orange is bright and stimulating. Think of the zest of a citrus peel, or the tart awakening of your taste buds as you bite into a fresh orange.
Orange is not a color you wear accidentally, so when you wear the bitcoin bright shade of #F6911D, it stands out!
The Satoshi Symbol
Though the Bitcoin symbol and its orange color have been fully adopted at this point, one interesting area of debate is how to denote satoshis. Satoshis, or sats, are the smallest unit of bitcoin. There was a small campaign to call these units “bits”, but it never really gained traction. So now, although everyone agrees on what to call them, nobody knows how to write them! There are dollars ($) and cents (¢), and there is bitcoin (₿) and sats – for which we don't have a symbol yet.
This was a less relevant question in the past, but now that the price of a single bitcoin is out of reach for most people, there is a strong push by many bitcoiners to make sats the standard.
Nobody wants to buy 0.00001 bitcoin, but buying 10,000 sats sounds pretty awesome! Since most people will be buying fractions of a bitcoin at this point, it makes sense to get some marketing and promotion behind sats. In some bitcoin apps, you can even switch the units to sats, so instead of buying $300 worth of bitcoin, you can buy 640,000 sats.
There are a few leading contenders for sats symbols so far.
Maybe the most well known is from the Twitter account @symbolsatoshi, which has the sats symbol as three horizontal lines with one vertical line through the middle (丰). The upside to this symbol is that there's some meaning behind it, in that it traces onto the Bitcoin logo very well, and means bountiful and abundant in Japanese. The downside is that it looks like gyro meat on a vertical grill.
In 2021, there was a burst of activity around developing a satoshi symbol, and one of the most popular tweets from those couple weeks came up something that looks like an infinity symbol turned vertical with a horizontal line through it. This one wasn't my first choice because it looks like a number 8, or like an ankh, which is a religious symbol.
The poll below compared the gyro meat symbol (丰) with a tilde (~) and the section symbol (§). The upside to the tilde and section symbols is that they are easy to type with a normal keyboard. The downside is that a tilde can have multiple meanings. The section symbol can be hard to read in certain fonts or sizes, and it's difficult to hand write. I don't even know how to do it. What is it – two s's stacked on top of each other?
Personally, I thought the tweet below was a cool design. The symbolism is interesting, because a satoshi is a small unit of bitcoin, so it takes the outside of the bitcoin logo and places a small ‘s' on the inside. I think it looks very much like a typical currency symbol. The downsides here are that it takes many strokes to write out compared to a typical currency symbol, and the ‘s' with vertical lines is typically associated with dollars.
My personal favorite was the Greek letter koppa (ϟ). It's only one stroke to draw, easy to see in small fonts, symbolizes the lightning network, and it already exists as a unicode symbol. Unfortunately, a large number of comments on this Twitter suggestion immediately drew connections to the Nazi Schutzstaffel, which often shortened to SS, and stylized as ϟϟ. That's a bummer. I really liked this one.
There have been many suggestions and artistic interpretations of sats over the years, including variations on dollar-like ‘s' symbols. I personally like the 3rd one on the top right that looks like an ‘@' symbol, since I think it would be easy to write out. This would require a new symbol to be created for keyboards though!
Will we ever get a satoshi symbol? Maybe bitcoin is too big and too diverse now to decide with intent which symbol we are going to use. Maybe we are just waiting for a symbol strong enough to pull everyone together. Maybe one day a symbol for sats will appear and everyone will just kind of nod and think, “Sure, that works.”